A brief look at my gaming history

OK, it’s been over a year since my last post. Instead of making excuses or giving reasons, I’m just going to move onward and hope to be a bit more active in the future.

Back in the spring of 1980, my best friend, Galen, and I were walking home from school. He asked if I wanted to go over to Chad’s house with him and play Dungeons and Dragons. I’d never heard of it, but I said ‘OK’.

We stopped at his house where he pulled out a book and told me I needed to make up a character. Throughout the process, I had no idea what I was doing. He told me I would need a crossbow. At that time, I didn’t have a clue what a crossbow is. After some time, I had a sheet of paper with stats and an equipment list.
We headed over to Chad’s house, and I was still clueless. Galen told me about how to play, but it didn’t sound anything like any board or card games I’d ever played in the past.
When we arrived at Chad’s, he and Thad (who later became my brother-in-law) were waiting for us. We sat at the kitchen table, and Chad pulled out another book: The Keep on the Borderlands. I asked if I could look at it and got a snappy “NO!” in reply. Only the DM got to look at it.
The only thing I can really remember about the session itself is that Thad talked some Keep official into leaving the keep to check out some ‘suspicious people’ he had seen outside the keep. He killed this NPC and took his magic sword. (Hey, we were only 10!)
I wasn’t really impressed with the game and gave it no more thought until later that summer.
I was staying with my sister and her husband one weekend, and Thad was over there introducing my brother-in-law and a few others to the game. Having nothing else to do, I joined in.
That weekend, the hook was set, and my life was forever changed.

By the end of that year, I had two box sets and introduced some other friends to the game. Starting out, I had no clue what I was doing as a DM; but I had a few adventures and the sample in the books to help me out.
Sure, the games were Monty Haul back in the day, but we had fun playing and didn’t worry too much about logistics (How in the hell did that 50’ dragon fit in this 20’ square room?).
So, I had two separate groups of friends; and both groups were playing D&D. This continued on for a bit over a year if I recall correctly.
About that time, Galen introduced me to a new book: The AD&D Player’s Handbook. This thing was a hardcover!
So, the group with Galen switched over to playing A&D while the other group with the Stegman brothers and their cousin stuck with Basic D&D using the updated Mentzer boxes.
Both groups saw people come and go over the next several years. The AD&D group would meet up to four or five times per week after school. We’d be hanging out in Galen’s garage, and someone would mention they had something to run. We’d all scatter home to get our characters and meet back. Eventually, I just kept my folder of characters in my school backpack. Some of them gave RoleMaster a try, but I wasn’t among them.
The Basic D&D group would usually play on weekends over at the Stegman’s house. We tried a few sessions of Star Frontiers, but the lack of magic fell short for us.
This all continued through to graduation in 1987.
Once I started attending the local Jr College, the AD&D1e games pretty much came to a halt for me. The basic game stalled about a year later.

In 1989, a new edition was on the shelves! I snagged it up and began devouring it immediately. I fell in love with this edition. Specialty priests allowed use of different weapons and having different spells! That’s unheard of in D&D!
Within a few years, my now brother-in-law, Thad, and I had gotten some guys together for the longest running group I’ve ever been part of. From 1991 until 1998 or so, we had the same core group with a few people coming and going.
As wives and children entered our lives, gaming slowed to a mere once per week; but we had several campaigns during that time with a few of them getting into the mid teens for levels. We had a few end with the dreaded TPK.
Throughout all of the years and editions, we explored caves near the keep, the tomb of the demilich, caverns with a vampire daughter of a demi-god and sorceress, and even a crashed spaceship. I ran a few different groups through an evil temple near Hommlet; only once did a group complete it successfully.
We had many adventures in far off lands and battled many foes.

At the turn of the century, third edition was released. Within a few weeks, I had gathered several players from different groups I’d had the past several years; and we began anew. By the time v3.5 was out, I had met and started gaming with more different people. We had several short-lived campaigns come and go for the next few years.

During this time, I started expanding my RPG experience beyond the scope of D&D. I tried Vampire: the Masquerade, Exalted, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (had a great campaign lasting a year or so!), and a few d20 variants. With the exception of Buffy, none of them took hold.
Then WotC announced 4th edition was coming. I kept track of the initial writings about it and liked what I was reading. As things progressed, though, it started losing me. In fact, the things I’d read and liked were being dropped.
So, when D&D4e was released, I ignored it and stuck with D&D3.5; but even that began to wear thin on me for a few reasons.
In 2005, I signed up to play test D&D material for the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting published by Kenzer & Co. As I read through the material that was to be released, I started looking at it from a different point of view. Before I would take everything as is and go with it. Now everything suddenly needed to make sense within the genre for me. Looking back at what I’d been playing for several years, I noticed much of it suddenly didn’t appeal to me with this new point of view. Things I once thought were great lost its luster to me.
Also, the GM I had in the late 2000’s didn’t help. In the three years he ran games, each of the three campaigns I was in started out great. Within a few levels, they all went to hell. Monty Hall would have been ashamed of these campaigns. In one of them, I had books for all six ability scored to go up five points. I hadn’t even hit level three at that time. In the next, my human expert/warrior/fighter has a strength score of 21 by level four. Later, his STR & CON were both 30+. In the final one, the group had a few hundred thousand gold by level four. The games became very dull.
Even that wasn’t the final nail. In that last game, my cleric hit level six: time for a new feat! I looked through a dozen books for over three hours and could not decide upon one.
My love for the d20 system died that day. I was ready to give up gaming.

Luckily, that worse than death fate did not come to pass. About that same time, there was a new thread starting up on the home of the Kalamar forums that discussed a new, soon to be released Fantasy RPG: HackMaster Basic.
The designers were dropping spoilers about the game into this thread. I liked everything I read about it, enough so that I pre-ordered the book and waited patiently for its release. And much to my delight, Kalamar was to be the default setting for this game.
The book arrived in June, and I started devouring the content. This game appeared to be the fix I needed to keep gaming. In fact, it hooked me even more than D&D hooked me as a young lad of 10 years.
I had a few people roll up some characters, and we ran through the free adventure from the website. Admittedly, things didn’t flow as easily as I expected but I had no experience with these new rules and was still learning them.
I didn’t get a campaign going until January of 2010. By chance, I ran into two of my old gaming buddies from AD&D2e (they are brothers at that!) within a few days of each other. That weekend, the married couple from that old 2e group posted that they were moving back to town. This was the sign I needed. We got together and started playing HackMaster.
I’m on my second group using these rules and my third campaign. The current campaign is about a year old with all of the characters at levels 4 and 5.

Next time, I’ll discuss some of my future plans for writing.

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